Henry Kissinger: advisor to presidents and popes

Henry Kissinger

Henry Kissinger, the renowned American diplomat who passed away on November 29 at the age of 100, proved to be a counsellor to presidents and a confidant to popes.

Spanning multiple decades and contentious geopolitical eras, Kissinger’s interactions with the Vatican reveal a tapestry of discussions and alliances.

In a notable instance in 1975, Kissinger was involved in a four-way conversation with Pope Paul VI, Archbishop Agostino Casaroli and US President Gerald Ford.

Kissinger, then the US Secretary of State, held a pivotal presence as the group discussed multifaceted issues ranging from the Middle East conflicts to European politics.

Records from the conversation shed light on Kissinger’s rapport with the Vatican.

Paul VI referred to him as an “old friend,” hinting at previous encounters that rose above mere diplomatic formalities.

Counsellor to popes

While Kissinger is best known for having the ear of presidents, he was also often a counsellor to popes.

His first meeting with Pope John Paul II came during a private audience in 1979. However, the meeting didn’t occur under the most favourable of circumstances. Kissinger opined the choice of a Polish pope was a provocation to Moscow and might not be “good for humanity”.

Despite initial reservations about Pope John Paul II’s election, Kissinger’s relationship with the pontiff blossomed. It led to frequent interactions over a quarter-century.

Kissinger’s interactions with subsequent popes, including Benedict XVI, further underlined the depth of his engagement with the Vatican.

The German pontiff and the German-born Henry Kissinger had a very strong relationship. Such was their understanding that Benedict reportedly asked Kissinger to serve on an unofficial council of foreign policy advisors. The Vatican subsequently denied the rumour.

Kissinger AI warning

“The German philosopher Emmanuel Kant wrote an essay in the eighteenth century in which he said someday there will be universal peace. The only issue is whether it will come about by human insight or by catastrophes of such a magnitude that we have no choice” Kissinger told a meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences in 2007.

“He was right then, and he is right today, although some of us may add that it may take some divine guidance and not just insight to solve the problem” Henry Kissinger said.

Until his passing, Kissinger stayed abreast of global developments. His insights remained sought after, delving into contemporary topics like the advent of Artificial Intelligence. He cautioned against its potential for catastrophic peril, emphasising the grave dangers it could pose.


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